I’ve heard it said that most stories really begin and end in the middle, and so it seems fitting to begin this blog with a brief discussion of middles.
As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed the middles best in stories. It’s comfortable. You know what the writer’s voice is like, you’ve familiarized yourself with the world and characters of the story, and there is a comfortingly large number of pages between you and the end of the book. Also, major character deaths tend to happen near the end of stories, so you don’t have the same level of worry when your favorite character gets into trouble in the middle. Unless, of course, the author likes to break the rules.
As a writer, though, middles are hard. I’ve tried outlining, but writing out an outline takes away some of the excitement for me, and writing the middle feels like wading through cement. I’ve tried just starting without much of a plan, but then the story gets lost before the middle even begins. For a novella I wrote recently, though, I think I’ve found an okay balance.
I just started with a magic system I liked. I wrote a few scenes to discover how such a magic would affect life for the people involved with it. I had an idea for a character, and wrote a few scenes from his childhood. Then I rewrote the original idea to fit what I’d discovered about the character through writing about him. I wrote a couple scenes of what eventually became the novella, and when I finally felt like I knew the story and characters well, I started writing.
I didn’t write in the right order. I started with a scene in the early middle, then a few scenes at the end. I went back to the beginning and rewrote that a few times, then started developing the end further. Writing the whole thing took about a month. The middle was still really hard, but eventually I think I got it right. I’ll have to see what the publisher I sent it to thinks.
Sometimes there isn’t an easy solution in writing, or in life. Sometimes you just have to be really, really stubborn about getting the job done.
How do you get through middles?
Do you have a favorite story middle?
I’d add a picture to this post, but the scanner isn’t cooperating. Next time!